A poem’s beginning should be striking and compelling, urgent and invigorating. A reader should want to continue to the next line, and finish the rest of your work. The first line of any piece of poetry not only has a stake in deciding its artistic merit, but also its commercial value. If your first line isn’t interesting enough, no one will bother with the rest. No pressure.
But as a writer, more often than not, your first line simply represents the struggle of making a start, of beating the crisis of the blank Word document, the I-Don’t-Know-What-I’m-Doing stage of any new project. So here are ten great first lines of poetry I collected so that you can analyze what makes them stand out, get inspired to start writing, or simply admire some of the openers to your favorite poems.
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
-Elizabeth Barret Browning
Because I could not stop for Death
Let us go then, you and I
People disappear. And go looking for a place to be looked at.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary
-Edgar Allen Poe
We were very tired, we were very merry
-Edna St. Vincent Millay
I would like to watch you sleeping
Drink to me only with thine eyes
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky
Written by Sanvitti S.
April is the cruelest month, breeding/ Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/ Memory and desire, stirring/ Dull roots with spring rain.
-T. S. Eliot
R2: The Rice Review
Rice University's undergraduate literary magazine. Here you can find event updates, monthly writing contest winners, and opinions by the R2 staff on what's new, interesting, or subject to discussion in the literary and arts world.